Vermont Nuclear Closes – One down and 105 more to go

Unfortunately the plant will sit there in “safe mode” for 60 years until it cools down enough to begin to dismantle it. Hopeful by then a safe disposal site will be designated for the whole US so that the site can be returned to greenfield status. This country should have started a glassification program a long time ago, but besides getting the idea of nuclear power all wrong for cold war purposes, we have got the whole process wrong to make it at least feasible ever since. What a waste of time and money this last 60 nuclear years have been. Our grandchildren will look back on our time as a sad one indeed.

Vermont nuclear power plant to shut down in 2014

Terri Hallenbeck and Tim Johnson, Burlington (Vt.) Free Press

Company said the plant is no longer economically viable.

BRATTLEBORO, Vt. — Entergy Corp. will close Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, which it had fought so vigorously to keep open, by the end of 2014, the company said Tuesday.

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin called the shutdown “the right decision for Vermont” and pledged to help the plant’s workers find new jobs.

Entergy (ETR), which bought Vermont Yankee in 2002 from eight Vermont utilities, made the decision Sunday to shut down the 600-megawatt nuclear power plant just outside of Vernon, Vt., on the Vermont-New Hampshire border about 2 miles north of the Massachusetts border but informed the Vermont governor of its decision Tuesday morning


Go there for a joyous read. More next week.


The OIL Drum goes offline – Does that mean that Peak Oil Theory is wrong?

That is a very interesting question. At one level is is just a case of a bad attribution. It would be like saying if Jane’s stopped publication then there are no airplanes. At another level, as all the authors say that were involved, they may have just run out of new and bright things to say. It could also be that with many other things predicting the END OF THE WORLD, when it never happens, the readers got bored. That several major religions have preached that for thousands of years and nobody has gotten bored yet would speak against that. I have always been skeptical about the doom and gloom nature of the blog itself but when the CIA and the Defense Department believe something then, you have to believe it has some credibility and really oil is a finite resource. So with deep water drilling and fracking we may just be buying time. Then there is global warming. Anyway I drivel on.

Aug 19

Our Clean Energy Future

Posted by Big Gav

Following on my recent post bidding Farewell to The Oil Drum, I’d like to have a look at what I view as our longer term future for energy production and consumption.

As noted in my previous post, for the time being the combination of unconventional oil extraction and the ramping up of extraction of natural gas (from both conventional and unconventional sources) has continued to push the point of peak oil production out into the future, defying the predictions of the more pessimistic peak oil observers. During this period we have seen a boom in the research and development of solutions to help us eliminate our dependency on fossil fuels, which I’ll explore in this post.

Solutions can be divided into 3 groups :


  • Renewable energy – solar power, wind power, geothermal power, hydro power, ocean energy and biomass derived power (including biofuels)
  • Distribution of renewable energy – energy storage and the electricity grid
  • Adopting alternatives to oil and other fossil fuels – electric transport, bioplastic, alternatives to fossil fuel based fertiliser and new models for manufacturing, construction and agriculture


Renewable Energy

The graphic below shows the energy available from renewable energy sources annually compared to global energy consumption. The numbers are intended to give a rough idea of relative scale – for any given energy source a wide range of estimates can be found in the literature so the numbers are indicative.


These numbers in some ways understate the amount of energy potentially available (ignoring solar power potential at sea or in space, for example, or wind power at high altitudes or far offshore, or geothermal power deep below the surface of the earth) but still serve the demonstrate that the renewable energy available to us is orders of magnitude larger than our current global energy consumption.

The contribution made by renewable energy to our energy needs is expected to exceed that made by gas (and double that made by nuclear power) by 2016, though progress needs to be accelerated if we wish to create a sustainable energy system.

Solar power

Solar power is the largest energy source available to us, dwarfing all other sources – renewable and non-renewable. Approximately 36,000 Terawatts of power could be captured by land based solar power generation – compared to current global energy use of around 16 TW. As a result, most of the plans floated for shifting to 100% renewable energy (examples include proposals by Mark Jacobson and Stuart Staniford and local plans for countries like Germany and Australia) rely primarily on solar power.

Solar power is not only the largest energy source available to us but it is also the fastest growing energy source, with solar power generation increasing by over 58% in 2012.

There are a number of options for harnessing solar power – power generation using solar photovoltaic (PV) cells and solar thermal arrays along with passive solar techniques such as solar hot water heaters.

I have been of the view that solar thermal power generation (also known as concentrating solar power or CSP) would become our most important source of power in the longer term. This view was based on a number of advantages that solar thermal possesses – it does not require rare or expensive materials (enabling it to scale without hitting resource limits), it can be built on (and is best suited to) arid land that has few other uses, it can incorporate energy storage (thus avoiding the intermittency issue), it is compatible with the existing centralised generation model and it can be combined with traditional sources of power generation (coal or gas) in hybrid power plants that allow an easy transition using existing connections to the electricity grid.

An area of desert around 250 km by 250 km covered with solar thermal power generation could supply all the world’s current electricity demand.


Go there and read a really long article. More next week.


Illinois Pipeline Blows Up – Much wildlife destroyed

A pipeline in northwest Illinois blew up last night and left a  1/2 acre crater 15 feet deep. Now it was in a cornfield outside of some town I have never heard of, Erie. So that means much corn lost its life so plastics could be made. Toss in the mice, voles, moles, snakes, birds, maybe a rat or two, maybe a coyote, maybe an owl and probably a bunch of bats and really I was not making up the title. At first glance no humans, cows or horses were killed nor any major live stock. But 1/2 acres with 300 fot flames.? Just think of the poor earth worms and ants.

A Closer Look At Pipeline Company And Safety Reports

Updated: Aug 13, 2013 10:32 PM CST

The pipeline involved in the explosion near Erie, Illinois late Monday night is a part of Houston-based Enterprise Products’ Mid-America pipeline system called the Morris Lateral. It’s a ten inch pipe that runs from Iowa City to Morris, Illinois where it serves a petrochemical customer.

     What runs through the line is natural gas liquids. Company spokesperson Rick Rainey says that’s what comes out with the natural gas when it’s produced and it’s basically a mixture of butane, propane, natural gasoline, and ethane. In this particular case the ethane and propane are a feedstock in the starting point for raw materials for different types of plastics.
     The company is working with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to investigate what happened with the line. Rainey says from an environmental standpoint there’s little along the lines of clean-up because this type of product would have burned away.
     Enterprise Products has approximately 50,000miles of pipeline nation wide that transport a variety of things.
     This incident raises a lot of questions about safety regulations and what kind of issues the company may have dealt with in the past. In a list of safety-related condition reports the company made to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration since 2003 there are 59 issues reported in Iowa and Illinois. The majority of those were in Illinois.
     There are things like corrosion, minor leaks, or other conditions that could lead to imminent hazards. The full list shows more than 1,000 safety-related condition reports throughout the country in the last decade.
     There is a whole slew of reasons why companies are required to file a report. They include any leak over five gallons or anytime more than $50,000 in repairs are done to equipment, pipeline, or pump stations.
    “Overall, if you compare us to the industry as a whole we have a very strong track record of safety. We’ve established ourselves at least in the different areas we operate as a safe and reliable operator,” said Rainey.
     Rainey also notes that pipeline operating conditions are monitored 24-7. In this case Enterprise Products was able to shut off the gas remotely within minutes of the explosion.


Go there and read or type in the title of this piece in google and explore other perspectives. More next week.


Fukushima – The ongoing threat

While it is true that this “underground river of water” or what ever it is, is troubling. It is also clear that the bloggers and the fear mongers also want to have an end of the world hissy fit. The truth probably lies in the middle somewhere, BUT the fact that this is 2 and 1/2 years later is both dangerous and unacceptable. I lay this one at the foot of the antiquated class structure of Japan and its notion that deference is the only honorable approach to major social conflicts. This is at its heart a cultural conflict between the business community and the government which the business community wants to win. Such a win could end us all and the fact that the Japanese government is just now catching on is frightening.

Official: Tepco Plan Could Cause Fukushima Reactor Buildings to “Topple”

Japan’s Nuclear Accident Response Director Warns that Tepco’s Actions Might Cause Reactor Buildings to Collapse

Tepco’s ill-considered efforts to change soil permeability and water flow have caused severe problems at the site … including highly radioactive groundwater bubbling up to the surface.

NHK notes:

The vice governor of Fukushima Prefecture has asked the government to take the lead in handling the matter and stop the leakage. Masao Uchibori told an official from the Nuclear Regulation Authority that some of Tepco’s measures have increased the risk of further leaks.

The Wall Street Journal’s Michael Arnold says:

Obviously this is a massive public health issue … if it gets into the ocean obviously this could be spread throughout the Pacific, could also get into the food supply.

Background here and here.

But there is another – stunning – threat.

Specifically, BBC points out:

Engineers are now facing a new emergency. The Fukushima plant sits smack in the middle of an underground aquifer. Deep beneath the ground, the site is rapidly being overwhelmed by water.

What happens when you pour hundreds of thousands of tons of water (400 metric tons each day times 2.5 years times 365 days in a year equals 365,000 metric tons of water)  onto soil which sits above a massive aquifer?


Tilting sinking buildings is not good. Go there and read. More next week.








British Government Bribes Home Owners For Wind – Payoffs to accept wind turbines

This is so bogus. Wind Farms are seen as a “burden” on the community so money is made available from the government to compensate individual households. I do not really know how dollars are changed into pounds but lets call it 70%. That would mean that any household in the US would be eligible for 650 $$$ per year for being near a wind farm. That amounts to what?  Redistribution of tax income or is this actually a subsidy? Hard to tell but here it is:

The government’s planned compensation to households near new wind-farm developments may not be enough

The government this week announced a plan to compensate households near new wind-farm developments to incentivise them to accept them. Steve Gibbons, discussing provisional findings from on-going research, suggests that the level of compensation may not cover the costs involved.

News yesterday morning suggests that communities near new wind-farm developments could be in for some form of compensation, through lower electricity prices or other payment schemes. The BBC reports that the compensation could be worth as much as £100,000 per community. This is probably welcome news for residents potentially affected by wind-farm developments, although provisional findings from on-going research suggests that this level of compensation may not cover the costs involved, in terms of environmental, health and other impacts. I find that an operational wind farm reduces housing prices by around 7% up to 5km from the wind farm site. Some rough calculations based on these estimates suggest that the implied social costs on the local community (within 5km) amounts to about £80 million per operational wind farm, or about £500 per household per year.

An extended (user friendly) abstract of the research follows below:

Renewable energy technology has potential global environmental benefits in terms of reduced CO2 emissions and slower depletion of natural energy resources. However, like most power generation and transmission infrastructure, the plant, access services and transmission equipment associated with renewable electricity generation may involve environmental costs. This is particularly so in the case of wind turbine developments, where the sites that are optimal in terms of energy efficiency are typically in rural, coastal and wilderness locations that offer many natural environmental amenities. These natural amenities include the aesthetic appeal of landscape, outdoor recreational opportunities and the existence values of wilderness habitats. In addition, for residents local to operational wind turbines have reported health effects related to noise and visual disturbances.


They even site the old “health related issues” which have never been proven to exist. Go there and read. More next week.